Today I got to weigh in on the radio about Brad Pitt’s recent engagement to Angelina Jolie. Time always runs short, and there is so much that we did not get to cover, but what I found most interesting about their desire to marry was that they realized this is something that really mattered to their children. Until now, they are part of the 40% or more of children in the U.S. whose parents are NOT married. While we as adults may not think this matters so much, clearly it can and does have an impact on our children.

What does marriage really mean? With divorce rates so high these days, and so many states denying this right to gay couples, many adults minimalize the importance of a piece of paper that certifies you are now officially recognized as a committed couple. But the fact is, it does mean something to be married– to say that of all the people in the world, this is the person you have chosen as your partner, and that you want to stay with until death do you part. Now, it may not work out that way, but expressing publicly that profound depth of your love is an amazing statement that about 80% of Americans will chose to make at one point in their lives.

Love may not be everlasting, but when we produce children from our unions, we take on an obligation to not just provide them with their basic necessities, but also life skills that they will carry with them even once we are gone. So when we divorce, it is our duty as parents to minimize the pain for our kids, and to continue to provide them with hope. Those of us who are lucky enough to find love again post-divorce, have an additional duty to teach our kids that relationships are hard work, but they also provide the most rewarding experiences in our lives. To be able to show a child that life doesn’t always work out according to our plans, but that we move forward despite setbacks and never lose hope in love, that to me is the best gift ever.